Mending the Political System
The local elections held in May 2019 rather predictably saw not just the Conservatives but also Labour lose large numbers of Councillors across the UK as a protest against the failure to deliver Brexit and also as a demonstration of the way in which politicians are now seen by huge numbers of ordinary people – a self-serving superior few, completely divorced from the reality of everyday life. Politicians are believed to no longer represent the people who elected them. Many voters tend to be less selective about who runs their city or town, leaning towards the view that it doesn’t matter too much from the political party point of view who is nominally in charge. It is council employees, these days headed by a usually impressively-paid Chief Executive Officer that actually gets things done (or not, as the case may be).
Up to a point this is true, but only up to a point. What is undoubtedly true is that regardless of which party holds control in the council chamber, too many areas around the country no longer have the levels of service that used to be the norm. Weekly waste collections are becoming more rare; potholed roads less so. Street lights are being turned off, libraries closed and among so many other things and most noticeably, care for more mature members of society is, has, become more savage as the elderly are treated with a remorseless and ever-increasing shabbiness – as if the message from politicians, both locally and nationally, is to consider the old a nuisance, a burden to be got rid of at the earliest possible opportunity.
Why the apparent desire to cull anybody over a certain age, where did it come from? I have provided an answer to this in my book, ‘Comments of a Common Man’, available from Amazon for just £9.99. Perhaps (if you haven’t already) you should buy it, read it and then think about it, as I make my observations on a number of aspects to life (including the NHS) that concern ordinary people around the UK, aspects that politicians seem to ignore. If they don’t ignore them, the usual response is to throw more taxpayer’s money at them, while seeking a good newspaper headline – the politician’s holy grail; ‘We must do something! Look! This is something…let’s do that! Especially since it will look good in tomorrow’s papers!’
In 2016 I published a book on Heathrow Airport and three years on the story needs updating, so a much-rewritten, revised and updated second edition is now due. In this, one of my revisions covers this very point. My new book on the airport contains the following comment:
'Politics and politicians are not everybody’s favourite flavour. One of the reasons is the propensity of those involved to do not what is right but what makes them look good at the time. No matter what others may then have to do later—every politician lives for the here and the now. It has always been the task of successors the next day to deal with the decisions of the day before.'
The new edition of the book is scheduled to be out in September 2019 and those who find social history and the political manoeuvring that surrounds everyday life may well find the book of interest; you don’t necessarily have to be interested in airports per se, but the story behind Heathrow mirrors the things that concern us in so many other areas of life, including Brexit and the behaviour of politicians generally. What will upset some people is my call in the book for two new runways and not just one – I make the point not to be provocative but because I believe two to be necessary. News of the publication will be carried here on KJM Today so do keep an eye out for it, as you perhaps should also for new edition of ‘Comments’, referred to above. Even though there has been two editions already, such is the pace of political life that an updated third version is needed, particularly where Brexit is concerned.
This of course, is where we came in.
The deeds and misdeeds of those we elect are actually quite well-established but have been laid bare by the behaviour of many current Members of Parliament (MPs) today. Why? What is it about an MP that has turned so many people off in recent times? There has been a now long-standing tendency among people of voting age not to bother as many feel, ‘They never listen, why should I be interested?’ Yet at one time, the idea of not voting was anathema to most. So what’s changed? Two events more than ever before have shown that ordinary people – the voters – do take an interest and will comment (especially on social media, hated by every government for the very reason that it does enable people to have a critical voice).
The first was the referendum on Scottish independence. The resounding rejection of Scotland breaking away from the UK was a slap in the face for the Scottish National Party and the SNP is dedicated to that very thing. This of course, is their right, it is why the SNP exists but, again until recently, it was always a minority movement, albeit one of significant membership.
Why was the vote confined only to people living in Scotland? Surely a vote to leave or remain as part of the United Kingdom is one that should have been afforded to all the citizens of the UK. As an Englishman as well as a Briton, I for one would have voted remain. I am as proud of Scotland as I am of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Union Flag is my flag and long may it remain so.
So I would miss Scotland greatly if it were to leave – and there of course, is the second event of great significance; the exit of the UK from the European Union. At this point I should say that I have written of these things before so do apologise for any repetition but it seems to me that since the numbers voting in the referendum on UK independence were so large, it is a matter of such national importance that the discussion (and the repetitions) will go on for some time still to come.
Having said that I have of course, made my views known elsewhere on KJM Today so let’s suffice by saying that a majority of those who voted cast their vote to leave. Therefore, since in a democracy, the majority decision is the one that carries the day (wins in other words), leave the UK must. How big or otherwise that majority was is neither here nor there. A majority vote is a majority vote so the United Kingdom must leave the European Union. Except…except, except, except…the UK has not. Three years after the people’s vote, the UK is still in the EU. And it is this, more than any other single thing that has led to the people, who already had a vote, feeling that they are being ignored. Ignored by a self-appointed ‘super-elite’, cocooned in an insulated bubble called Westminster, isolated by a taxpayer-funded salary of almost £80,000 a year, plus expenses. A super-elite that said (and almost without exception) at the time the referendum result was announced, that the will of the majority must be respected. This included Labour’s Yvette Cooper, Vince Cable of the Liberal Democrats and Conservative Dominic Grieve. All three are now at the forefront of efforts to overturn the referendum result, along with many more now trying to stop Brexit and thus defy a democratic vote. A similar super-elite (and an unelected one) also runs the EU and this is why the people’s vote resulted in a majority to leave.
Forget all that guff about immigration and so on. A majority of the British people do not want to stop EU citizens coming here. They do not want to turn their backs on Europe. They do not want to be enemies of the EU. They are not ignorant, they are not racist and they did know what they voted for. A majority of the British people simply want to be free.
The net result of the parliamentary obfuscation, prevarication and plain dishonesty is a huge number of people, supporters of all three mainstream parties, now saying that they will never vote again. Not voting is, as Stephen Wolfe MEP said in KJM Today’s interview with him, a statement of itself and another is spoiling one’s ballot paper. There were more spoilt papers in these local elections than ever before and almost all of them, instead of a cross by the name of one’s candidate of choice, had words connected with Brexit written on them.
The people had a vote. They exercised their right to do so and a majority voted to demand that the UK ceases to be a member of the EU. The people had another vote – in the local elections and again voiced their disgust at the betrayal of them by too many MPs now in Parliament. And it is why most of them must be de-selected and replaced.
So what do we do about it? How? When? The when can only be in time for and/or at the next general election. As to how, it is self-evident that alternative ways of selecting candidates is needed and not only that, but a closer examination of those candidates is required. As it stands, selection is left in the hands of a few activists at local party committee level or preferred candidates are imposed by party chiefs. Both must stop.
Instead of selection by the few, it must be by the many. We must have Primary Elections, for which local parties must choose, say, three possible candidates. There can be as many Independents as wish to stand but each and every candidate must be subject to intense scrutiny by the electorate. Every single voter must receive a detailed run-down of each candidate, what their particular view of politics is; are they left, far-left, somewhere in between? Do they want to see more government control or less, higher taxes or lower taxes? What are their views? On everything - yes, the questions must be intense, far-reaching and voters must know everything there is to know about them.
That may seem intrusive but think of it like this; US media has got in to the habit of calling members of the US equivalent of the UK House of Commons, ‘Lawmakers’. This they are not, at least in the UK (even though the American media apply the term to us also). Yes they do create new laws but they also do other things as well. Put simply, our MPs run our country for us and on our behalf. We, the people, are entitled to know everything about who we are giving the job to and what they will do and how they will behave if they get that job.
One other important requirement is the qualifications needed to be an MP. Too many existing MPs have never done anything else – they are career politicians with no experience whatsoever of real life. Hence it doesn’t seem unreasonable to demand that before anybody thinks about applying, they must spend at least twenty years doing an ordinary job and living as ordinary people do – worrying about having enough money to even stay alive, never mind a luxury holiday somewhere. Be at least forty years of age. And time as an MP must be limited; get to retirement age and one does what everybody else does.
So local parties may indeed select their candidates but there must also be space for independents who are still supporters of a national party generally. For example, a local Labour party is in the hands of the extreme far-left. They select far-left extremists as their preferred candidates. But local voters do not want a far-left extremist as their MP…so Independent Labour candidates must be able to stand. The same applies to all other parties.
If by the way, anybody is found to have indulged in violence, threats, harassment, intimidation or similar (as has happened already in some of those Labour constituencies) then the consequences must be draconian – minimum prison term of thirty years with no parole. Note by the way, that I do not advocate any kind of ban from politics – to be legitimately involved is one of the most precious rights we have. But don’t use force - if you do, then its three decades banged up. Once one has done the time, then one is free to get involved with politics again. However – repeat the offence, it’s another thirty years locked up and still no getting out early. The UK does not do politics by violence or the threat of it.
Thus we have our primaries – each party must select three; three Labour candidates, three Tory, three Lib-Dem, three Brexit party, three UKIP, any number of Independent Labour, Independent Conservative and so on, plus the genuine Independents. Only one from each group goes forward to the election itself and only one gets the job of Member of Parliament.
Another of the ways of making feelings known is the spoiling of ballot papers. Again as I have said before, the way to do it is to write the words ‘NONE OF THEM’ on the paper. Doing so then means the paper is spoilt but each one still has to be counted. And, once more as I have said before, if a majority of voters in any constituency did so, the candidate who does get the most unspoilt votes has no credibility.
However, there will still be a result - so the answer is that a ‘NONE’ option must be available. If the majority vote none, then those candidates cannot stand again. New candidates must be found and a new election held. The ‘none’ option must become a standard feature on election ballot papers.
So what happens if a successfully-elected MP is found to have lied or otherwise deceived in the primary process? Or deviates from their declared position (like saying they are centre-left but are then shown to be far-left)? The result must be instant dismissal and prison for telling lies. Once again, the sentence must be harsh and of lengthy duration. Being an MP is probably the most important job one can do. One cannot be a Government Minister without being an MP first so it is the single biggest example of trust that the people can give. Break that trust and the guilty must suffer for it.
So here it is – the James Solution:
Primary Elections to decide who goes forward to the General Election.
Primary candidates must demonstrate that they have the life experience needed.
The General Election itself
Instant removal and prison for those who betray their employers, the people.
A None option on ballot papers
A minimum age of 40 before being considered for the job of MP and mandatory retirement at the age of retirement for everybody else.
There may well be other aspects to all of this that either I might think of or that others might. There are probably many who could argue very well against what I have said here.
I’d be interested to know.
However our system evolves – and it needs to – what everybody must do is vote. Demand new candidates to replace the existing ones. But go and vote - even if it means spoiling the ballot paper…I wonder how many who did just that at the local elections read my recommendation to do so here on KJM Today?
Remember where you read it first…
© Kevan James 2019.
The Great Betrayal April 1, 2019.
650 Vacancies. March 18, 2019.
The Unrepresentative Representatives. March 12, 2019.
The Politics of Hate. March 10, 2019.
News Commentary: Politics at the Crossroads. February 21, 2019.
Vote - lest it be taken from you. January 19, 2019
Sacking the Posers. December 12, 2018.
Brexit - Delayed, Derailed and Done For. December 7, 2018
Brexitania. November 16, 2018
Has Magna Carta been eroded and beyond the point of no return? August 24, 2018.
You can read more of Kevan James’ views in his book, ‘Comments of a Common Man’, £9.99, available from Amazon
‘Heathrow Airport 70 Years and Counting’ is due to be published on September 30, 2019.
Let KJM Today have your view – use the ‘get-in-touch’ form on the home page and tell us what you think.